Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from an Inverse report on species around the planet that face likely extinction. Neptune 911 has focused on the two marine mammal species at risk.
By Nina Pullano ∙ Feb 3, 2020
Say your goodbyes now.
The world may be in the middle of a sixth mass extinction, a catastrophic consequence of climate change, habitat loss, and human activity that threatens to wipe out more animals than we care to realize — and that includes humans.
Some scientists are even concerned that an insect apocalypse is upon us. But as of right now, cockroaches aren’t quite on their way out the door yet. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for these 16 animals. They are listed by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature as “critically endangered,” which means they’re among the most likely to disappear within the next decade.
Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)
What makes vaquitas unique?
Vaquitas are the world’s smallest porpoises, known for their shyness.
Where do vaquitas live?
Vaquitas live in off the coast of Mexico, in the northern part of the Gulf of California.
How many vaquitas are left in the wild?
It’s the world’s most rare marine animal, and it’s “on the edge of extinction,” WWF says.
Only 10 individuals are still living in Mexico — and it has already been declared “functionally extinct.”
What conservation efforts are protecting vaquitas?
Activist groups like ¡Viva Vaquita! are working with scientists and the government in Mexico to devise fishing equipment that doesn’t harm vaquitas. The efforts include buyouts for old fishing gear and loans for new businesses selling the safer equipment.
Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis ssp. asiaeorientalis)
Why are Yangtze finless porpoises endangered?
Fishing nets, boat propellers, and toxic waters from human development all endanger the porpoise, WWF reports.
What makes Yangtze finless porpoises unique?
This porpoise is a smart and potentially sneaky animal. It’s “known for its mischievous smile and has a level of intelligence comparable to that of a gorilla,” WWF writes.
Where do Yangtze finless porpoises live?
The porpoise are native to Asia’s Yangtze River. The river was previously also home to the highly intelligent Baiji dolphin, but unfortunately, that species was declared functionally extinct in 2006, WWF reports.
How many Yangtze finless porpoises are left in the wild?
There are about 1,000 of these animals left in the wild.
What conservation efforts are protecting Yangtze finless porpoises?
Efforts to protect these porpoises include tracking populations, conserving habitat, creating lake reserves, and influencing policy to better protect these animals.
Despite the doom conjured up by this list, there is hope: Research shows that environmental protection efforts really do work.
Populations of mountain gorillas, reindeer, wolves, and humpback whales have all seen their numbers rebound, thanks to humans making the effort to protect them.
In his own effort to preserve vulnerable species, National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore is on a mission to document every single species in captivity — and sometimes that means capturing, if you will, an animal that’s the last of its kind. Sartore has been working on his “Photo Ark” for 15 years, and he expects to take another 10-15 to finish it, the photographer told Inverse in 2019. “It’s a big responsibility, but a great honor and privilege as well,” Sartore said.
Only time will tell if he can meet that goal while there are still plentiful species to photograph.
—Excerpted from These 16 animals could become extinct by 2030